|Betreff: Lancet Research Scandal in Norway...|
|Von: Iris Atzmon
|Datum: Sat, 28 Jan 2006 22:03:47 +0200|
Norway's Radiumhospitalet has been rocked by a research scandal that may threaten its credibility.
PHOTO: INGAR STORFJELL
Health Minister Sylvia Brustad is expected to pay more attention now to proposals aimed at thwarting research cheats.
PHOTO: JARL FR. ERICHSEN/SCANPIX
Newspaper Aftenposten reported Monday that a commission led by medical professor Magne Nylenna of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim submitted its findings to the state Ministry of Health in December 2004. Commission proposals included a call for jail terms of up to one year for anyone caught forging medical research.
"We're surprised that nothing more has been done with this proposal," Nylenna told Aftenposten. New Health Minister Sylvia Brustad said the commission's work will now be re-evaluated, adding that "there's a need for new regulation in this area."
Brustad was calling in top health officials for a meeting on Monday, after it emerged last week that an otherwise respected health professional who's a doctor, dentist and researcher at Norway's Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet had faked an article in the respected publication The Lancet. The 44-year-old researcher, whom Aftenposten and several other Norwegian media outlets have chosen not to identify, has admitted to fabricating what he claimed was a survey of more than 400 patients.
The survey allegedly involved falsification of the death- and birthdates and illnesses of 454 "patients." The researcher wrote that his survey indicated that use of pain medication such as Ibuprofen had a positive effect on cancers of the mouth. He's now admitted the survey was fabricated and reportedly is cooperating with an investigation into all his research.
The research scandal has shocked officials at Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet in Oslo (Norway's newly merged National Hospital and major cancer hospital) and left them worried that such an embarrassment will prompt international partners to withdraw research funds.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported Monday, however, that the MD Cancer Center in Houston won't end its cooperation with Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet because of the researcher's fabrication. A spokeswoman for the National Cancer Institute in the US declined immediate comment on whether the scandal will have any consequences for its support of Norwegian research.
The researcher who's admitted to the fabrication has published nearly 40 articles in such prestigious journals as The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine, which had boosted his own profile both in Norway and abroad. Questions now are being raised about the validity of his earlier work, and a commission led by Anders Ekbom of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm will lead an investigation into it. The researcher's colleagues are also being questioned.
Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, is furious that a Norwegian doctor duped his publication. He insists all editorial controls were in place.PHOTO: THE LANCET
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The editor of the respected magazine, The Lancet, in which the fabricated article was published, calls the fraud "the worst the research world has seen."
Richard Horton told Oslo newspaper Aftenposten that he also can't understand how the Oslo doctor's 13 co-authors and colleagues on the fraudulent cancer research project could have been duped as well.
Horton claims at least six of the doctor's co-authors corresponded with The Lancet, and were highly involved with the substance of the article. He says it's incomprehensible that none of them realized that the article contained serious flaws.
In fact, an entire cancer patient survey on which the article hinged was fabricated. The doctor at the core of the fraud, now being publicly identified in Norway as Jon Sudbø, has admitted the fabrication and is now on sick leave.
There's little question that Sudbø has unleased a research scandal that's shaken the research world both in Norway and abroad. Some of the world's leading cancer experts in the US were involved with his project and his resulting article, along with medical colleagues in Oslo. Now most of them are being questioned, and are questioning themselves.
One of them, ear-nose-throat specialist Jon Mork, told Aftenposten he thought Sudbø's work on cancers of the mouth was solid until Sudbø himself admitted he'd fabricated research data. "When you're presented with material that an acknowledged and established colleague has worked on together with the world's foremost professors in the area, I'm at least not the type to doubt it," Mork said.
Now he and many others are prepared to answer questions from a commission set up to investigate the scandal. Norway's ministers of health and education made it clear on Monday that the credibility of the country's entire research community is at stake.
The Oslo and Akershus County Medical Officer will establish an investigation of researcher Jon Sudbø and the Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet Health Trust.
This indicates that both Sudbø, who admitted fabricating data used in a study of pain-killers published in The Lancet, and the Hospital group can face further probes, newspaper VG reported on its web site.
Sudbø's co-authors are currently not facing an investigation. The scandal has attracted international attention and has been branded perhaps the worst of its sort ever attempted.
Norwegian media reported Wednesday that an adviser with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had the original idea for the study that resulted in the fraud attempt, but Pfizer said that though the adviser in question did have ties to Pfizer, there was no connection between the company and the fraudulent study.
Swedish epidemiologist Anders Ekbom of Stockholm's Karolinska Institute came to Oslo to lead the investigative committee that the Rikshospitalet-Radiumhospitalet has established in the wake of the scandal.
According to the hospital's strategy director Stein Vaaler the result of the investigation will take at least a couple of months.